Articles Posted in In the News (Divorce)

A recent study is reporting that there are specific peaks of divorce filings in March and August. According to researchers, people who want to get divorced do not want to file during the summer family vacation season or before the winter holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. The study found that divorce filings peaked in March and August and were the lowest in November and December. Divorce filings also decreased in April and did not increase until August.

Researchers examined divorce cases in 37 of 39 counties in one state between 2001 through 2015. Irrespective of the size of the counties, the trends appeared to be similar. The research indicated that there were 430 divorce filings in December, 570 divorce filings by March and 558 in August. From December to March the divorce filings increased by 33%. Similarly, from December to August divorce filings increased by 30%. The peaks in divorce case filing happen in the months after the winter and summer breaks.

The delay in divorce filings may be attributed to socially sensitive times during the year. People enter holiday seasons with rising expectations even though they may have had a substandard year. They leave the holidays looking for a new opportunity, a fresh start and a change. For unhappy marriages, vacations can be very stressful when they do not meet expectations. After spending a lengthy vacation with a spouse, individuals often find that they are even unhappier and begin to plan for their divorce.

It is very common for Fort Lauderdale divorce lawyers to be told about the numerous sexual partners a spouse has had when they ask questions about adultery and its impact on the divorce, equitable distribution and alimony. Florida is a no-fault divorce state but adultery is a factor that the trial Judge can consider in awarding alimony or as justification for an unequal distribution of assets. However, it is not too often that the Court is concerned with the amount of sexual partners a wife has had and whether that has caused the divorce.

New research from the Institute of Family Studies has revealed that divorce rates have decreased for women who marry as virgins but have stayed the same for those who had one to two premarital sex partners. Women who have had 10 or more sexual partners prior to their marriage saw the highest increase in divorce rates. Interestingly, women who have premarital sex partners have consistently higher rates of divorce than those with three to nine partners.

Sexual behaviors have changed in recent years since younger people are having sexual encounters outside of their relationship. Sexual attitudes and behaviors continue to change. However, the extent of younger people hooking up has been embellished by the media.

It is being reported today that the death of Daniel Markel, a former Florida State University law school professor, has been linked to a murder-for-hire scheme. Markel was shot in the head inside his garage at his home during the middle of the day on July 18, 2014.

Law enforcement officers in Hallandale Beach, Florida have arrested Sigfredo Garcia for his alleged role in the 2014 death of Daniel Markel. On May 25, 2016, Garcia was charged with shooting Markel only two days after he was interviewed by investigators. He has pled not guilty and is presently being held without bond in Leon County, Florida. Law enforcement officers intend to charge a second man, Luis Garcia, in connection with the homicide.

It is believed that the murder of Daniel Markel is related to the desire of his former wife’s family to have his former wife, Wendi Adelson, and their two minor children relocate from Tallahassee, Florida to Miami, Florida. It is, however, unknown who hired the killers.

Earlier this summer, the US Supreme Court ruled on the case of Obergefell v. Hodges. In that decision, the court narrowly ruled that the 14th Amendment recognized a constitutional right to marriage for same-sex couples. As part of this ruling, not only must states issue marriages to same-sex couples seeking to unite in Florida, the state must also legally recognize as valid same-sex marriages and civil unions granted by other states. This requirement that all states recognize all validly issued same-sex marriages provides a degree of clarity when it comes to same-sex divorces, and it resolves the legal limbo that entrapped some couples living in Florida.

These couples included Keiba Lynn Shaw and Mariama Changamire Shaw, who married in Massachusetts in 2010. A year after their wedding, the couple moved to the Tampa Bay area. In the fall of 2013, they separated and began seeking a divorce early in 2014. The divorce was uncontested, with the couple having no children and completing a settlement agreement to divide their assets and debts. Courts uniformly refused to grant them a divorce, however, concluding that a Florida court could not dissolve their marriage because, under the Florida Constitution, the marriage never validly existed in the first place.
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A Broward Circuit Judge’s order on December 17 granted to a South Florida art dealer something she sought for more than a year: a divorce. What made the judge’s in-court ruling groundbreaking was that the woman sought a divorce from her lesbian partner, with whom she had entered into a civil union in 2002. The ruling represents the first time a Florida court has issued a divorce to a same-sex couple and comes on the heels of a December 8 ruling, issued in the same case, declaring Florida’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional and unenforceable, the Miami Herald reported.

The former couple entered into a civil union in Vermont 12 years ago. In 2010, one partner allegedly became unfaithful and, shortly thereafter, disappeared. In order for the other partner to marry her new partner, she needed to obtain a divorce. In a similar case involving a Tampa couple, the lesbian couple married in Massachusetts but could not get a Massachusetts divorce because neither was a resident there by the time they decided to part ways. In the present case, she could not obtain a Vermont dissolution because Vermont law requires a signed affidavit from her partner, and she no longer knew the partner’s whereabouts.
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An ex-husband’s attempt to force his ex-wife to share the cremated ashes of their son failed to succeed in either a Palm Beach County trial court or the 4th District Court of Appeal. The recent decisions make clear that the remains of the couple’s son did not legally constitute property and were not subject to the rules of property division.

The 2007 divorce of this Florida couple was a relationship marked by contentiousness, litigation, and tragedy. They battled over items as small as home videos and a baseball card collection. Then, in 2010, disaster struck when Wellington polo magnate John Goodman, while allegedly driving drunk, killed the Wilsons’ 23-year-old son by crashing his Bentley into the son’s car.

The couple launched a civil suit against Goodman, who eventually settled with the family for $46 million. The settlement brought an end to the husband’s alimony obligation to his ex-wife, but not to their legal battles. The couple could not agree regarding the burial of their son. The wife wanted to bury her son in Palm Beach County, where the son lived and died, while the husband desired to bury the son in Georgia, next to the graves of his parents. The husband argued before a Palm Beach County trial court that the son’s cremated ashes, which remain housed in a Royal Palm Beach funeral home, were property and should be subject to division, meaning splitting them in half and dividing between each of the parents.
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A Palm Beach County probate case and a divorce action in Broward County might not necessarily seem to have much in common, but two rulings in those cases issued earlier this month share a common link, for each addressed the timely issue of same-sex marriage. Additionally, as the Sun-Sentinel and Miami Herald reported, each judge in those cases concluded that Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage ban is unlawfully discriminatory. The recent rulings follow on the heels of two prior decisions, one each in Monroe and Miami-Dade Counties, that also determined that the marriage ban violated the U.S. Constitution.

The Broward case involved a lesbian couple who married in Vermont in 2002. Four years ago, the couple separated. One of the women recently filed a petition in Broward Circuit Court to dissolve their marriage. One essential legal question in the case regarded whether the Florida courts have the legal authority to dissolve an entity — a same-sex couple’s marriage — that Florida does not recognize as valid in the first place. In addressing that question, Judge Dale Cohen decided that the ban on same-sex marriages violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.

In his 16-page order, Judge Cohen stated that to “discriminate based on sexual orientation … to hold some couples less worthy of legal benefits than others based on their sexual orientation,” Cohen wrote, “is against all that this country holds dear, as it denies equal citizenship. Marriage is a well recognized fundamental right; all people should be entitled to enjoy its benefits.” Last month, Judge Luis Garcia in Monroe County and Miami-Dade County Judge Sarah Zabel reached similar conclusions on the equal protection question.
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A circuit court judge in the Florida Keys recently ruled that the Florida Constitution’s ban on marriages between same-sex partners violates the US Constitution’s equal protection clause, the Miami Herald reported. The ruling, which the state has appealed, could have a wide-reaching impact for many Florida same-sex couples, beyond simply those seeking to marry.

In a ruling issued July 17, Plantation Key-based Judge Luis Garcia decided that, when the Monroe County Clerk’s denied a marriage license to Key West bartenders Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, the state violated the mens’ rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. The fact that Florida’s same-sex marriage was the result of a ballot initiative approved by a majority of voters did not matter. According to the court’s decision, it “is our country’s proud history to protect the rights of the individual, the rights of the unpopular and rights of the powerless, even at the cost of offending the majority.”

The ruling applies only to couples seeking to marry in Monroe County. The state Attorney General’s office immediately filed a notice of appeal, which stayed enforcement of Judge Garcia’s ruling. This means that all potential same-sex marriages in the county remain on hold until the court of appeals resolves the state’s appeal, although Huntsman and Jones have asked Judge Garcia to lift the stay and allow the Monroe County Clerk to begin issuing licenses right away.
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On September 5th, the public got even more insight into the now very public life of George Zimmerman (acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin) when his soon-to-be ex-wife filed divorce papers in Seminole County. In August, Shellie Zimmerman was found guilty of perjury and ended up with probation, plus 100 hours community service for her false statements regarding the couple’s finances during George’s bail hearings.

Sheila explained that the couple has been under intense scrutiny from “both sides” and identified the weakness of their marriage as two people fighting their own struggles to be heard by the other. She described their lives around the time of the trial and after as “living like gypsies” for security purposes with constant “babysitter” bodyguards looming over them.

The Zimmerman divorce, despite already being filed, likely hit a snag when on September 9th, Lake Mary police detained Zimmerman for a domestic dispute incident, which was resulted in a panicked 911 call by Sheila claiming George was threatening her and her father with physical violence and a gun. She further alleged George punched her father in the face during the confrontation. Sheila ultimately withdrew some of her statements, and charges were dropped against George.
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The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of a Canadian couple in their suit against an Indiana-based adoption agency after the couple learned of their potential child’s drug addiction.The baby, only days old, began showing signs of drug addiction while still in the hospital. The addiction was inherited from the birth- mother who had abused methadone while pregnant. The couple learned of the child’s condition from a social worker, days after the agency knew.

A Bond of Life Adoptions, the adoption agency operating out of Indiana, originally succeeded in having the couple’s complaint dismissed from trial court. The agency relied on a release clause found in their contract signed by all potential adoptive parents which limits liability against the agency for claims derived from unknown medical conditions of the child or the child’s birth family.

The couple’s complaint, based heavily on a breach of contract theory, cited the failure of the agency to disclose important medical information to the couple which would have affected their decision to adopt. Since the discovery of the condition, the couple withdrew from the adoption process, completely distraught, and has expressed that they will not likely explore further adoption opportunities.

In the court’s opinion overturning the trial court’s dismissal, the court listed an unfortunately long history of adoption agencies hiding behind such releases citing that withholding information is not protected under “unknown medical conditions”.

Adoption providers, such as agencies or attorneys, are often barred from disclosing identifying information regarding the birth parents. However, this does not include medical or psychiatric information which would likely be important for the adoptive parents to know.

Nearly half of the states permit some sort of civil liability against adoption providers for a wrongful omission or commission. One of those states is Florida. Issues like this are another major reason that smart adoptive parents will seek out a knowledgeable experienced family law attorney.

Wrongful adoption suits, recognized in a number of states, vary in the basis of their elements. Most wrongful adoption suits do in some way allege that, through intent or negligence, the adoption provider did not act in good faith to inform the parents of potentially important information. Wrongful adoption claimants typically involve elements of misrepresentation, fraud, negligence, or contractual breach of good faith. Courts look at whether the information not disclosed is “material”. Information is “material” if it would have impacted the adoptive parents’ decision to adopt.

Many couples looking into adoption often explore international adoptions to avoid some of these problems, but US News recently reported on the failures of international adoption providers to diagnose, identify, or explore medical or psychological issues in the child and the child’s family. Plus, suits become incredibly more complicated if not impossible when brought against an international adoption agency.
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